Brady Breaks Silence, Vows Fight Against NFL Over Deflategate Punishment

New York Giants v New England PatriotsFOXBORO – Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady addressed the “deflategate” scandal Wednesday for the first time since January, denying any involvement in any rule-breaking and vowing to fight the NFL over the unprecedented punishment upheld yesterday by league Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“I am very disappointed by the NFL’s decision to uphold the 4 game suspension against me. I did nothing wrong, and no one in the Patriots organization did either,” Brady said in a statement released on his official Facebook page Wednesday morning. “There is no’smoking gun’ and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing.”

The New England Patriots’ star quarterback was suspended by NFL executive Troy Vincent in May following a league-sanctioned investigation by Ted Wells. The Patriots were fined $1 million and docked a pair of draft picks. The team didn’t appeal its penalty, but Brady and his lawyers made their case during a 10-hour appeal hearing on June 23.

“Despite submitting to hours of testimony over the past 6 months, it is disappointing that the Commissioner upheld my suspension based upon a standard that it was ‘probable’ that I was ‘generally aware’ of misconduct. The fact is that neither I, nor any equipment person, did anything of which we have been accused. He dismissed my hours of testimony and it is disappointing that he found it unreliable,” Brady said.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft defended Brady and targeted the league for its handling of “deflategate” Wednesday while reading a statement at the team headquarters in Foxborough.

“The decision handed down by the league yesterday was unfathomable to me.” Kraft said. “Six months removed from the AFC Championship game, the league still has no hard evidence of anybody doing anything to tamper with the PSI levels of footballs. I continue to believe and unequivocally support Tom Brady.”

Wells and his team requested Brady’s personal cell phone in March in connection with the investigation into the deflated footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January. Brady denied that request. Goodell cited Brady’s unwillingness to hand over his phone and the destruction of that phone during the investigation as key reasons in his decision to uphold the four-game suspension.

“I also disagree with yesterday’s narrative surrounding my cellphone. I replaced my broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6 AFTER my attorneys made it clear to the NFL that my actual phone device would not be subjected to investigation under ANY circumstances. As a member of a union, I was under no obligation to set a new precedent going forward, nor was I made aware at any time during Mr. Wells investigation, that failing to subject my cell phone to investigation would result in ANY discipline,” Brady said.

Kraft also questioned the NFL’s account of Brady’s unwillingness to cooperate and the destruction of his phone.

“It intentionally implied nefarious behavior and minimized the acknowledgment that Tom provided the history of every number he texted during that relevant time frame,” Kraft said. “And we had already provided the league with every cell phone of every non-NFLPA employee that they requested including head coach Bill Belichick.”

Kraft added that he regrets not appealing the penalties against the team which included a fine of $1 million and the loss of two draft picks including a first round pick.

“I, first and foremost, need to apologize to our fans because I truly believe what I did in May, given the actually evidence of the situation and the leagues history on disciple matters, would make it much easier for the league to exonerate Tom Brady,” Kraft said. “I was wrong to put my faith in the league.”

Brady indicated in the statement that he will challenge the arbitration award in federal court, “I respect the Commissioners authority, but he also has to respect the CBA and my rights as a private citizen. I will not allow my unfair discipline to become a precedent for other NFL players without a fight.”

That fight could come in a court room in Minnesota. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the NFL Players Association plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of Brady in U.S. District Court Wednesday in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis is considered a favorable court venue for the Players Association, with the union securing a number of legal victories there dating back to the 1970s. Judge David Doty presided over the landmark class-action lawsuit filed by NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White, leading to the implementation of modern free agency in the NFL.

In 2011, Doty ruled in favor of the players union in a case involving $4 billion in league television revenues. Doty found that the NFL acted against the interests of its players by renegotiating its television deals ahead of the 2011 lockout of the league’s players. In February, Judge Doty again ruled against the NFL, overturning the league’s suspension of Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson. Doty ruled NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson exceeded his authority in handing down the Peterson suspension.

The NFL also appears ready to take legal action. On Tuesday, the league filed a federal court case in New York, asking a judge there to confirm Brady’s suspension.

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